Mind over matter

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by Christopher D. Lancette

Even as you read this article, people are doing it all over Gwinnett County. They#re doing it in country clubs and libraries. In health clubs and YMCAs. They#re even doing it in churches. Senior citizens. Baby boomers. Generation Xers. Kids. Black, white, Hispanic. It seems everyone is involved, and what they#re doing is changing their lives. Yoga.

#Attendance in our beginner classes has tripled in recent years,# says Lisa Pierce, wellness director of the Robert D. Fowler Family YMCA in Norcross. #Interest is absolutely exploding.#

The odd-looking activity that many people know only by photos of people contorting themselves into seemingly painful poses, though, offers far more than chances to stretch unused muscles. Instructors and students alike say the 5,000-year-old practice originally developed in India provides physical, mental, and spiritual rewards. They say yoga improves their well-being & that it is proven to relieve stress, increase energy, strengthen the immune system, develop strength, enhance creativity, improve focus, increase lung capacity, alleviate pain, and eliminate insomnia. Yoga is also used as a therapy for cancer, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure and other diseases.

Part exercise, part meditation, #yogis# say it makes a major impact.

#The pain in my back was virtually gone after six months of yoga,# says Jim Haddad, an oral surgeon in Snellville who spends most of his day on his feet stretching over patients. He and his wife decided to give it a try four years ago after driving by The Yoga Source in Snellville and thinking of rave reviews from his sister-in-law. They haven#t stopped going since. #My back and neck feel great.#

Yoga Source owner Marcia Scredon sees success stories like Haddad#s every day. Some yogis seek physical relief and healing. Others are more interested in something deeper.

#Yoga is about the union of mind, body and spirit,# says Scredon, who has taught it for 14 years. #There are all kinds of different yoga that focus on different benefits, and there is a yoga that is right for everybody, but they all tone your body, help you relax, and bring a sense of peace to your life.#

Many Americans focus too much on the physical virtues of yoga and not enough time obtaining the mental and spiritual upsides, according to Cho Greenwater, a headmaster of Dahn Yoga. He observes too many Americans exercising on a gym treadmill while watching television # which prevents them from being able to relax their brains.

#People need to pay attention to their minds when they#re exercising,# says Greenwater, who sometimes teaches at Dahn#s facility in Duluth. #Focusing on bring your mind and body together is what makes healing happen.#

To figure out what yoga might be right for you and how it can help, instructors like Scredon and Greenwater recommend taking a beginner#s class and talking with instructors. Expensive equipment isn#t needed.

#All you really need to bring is an open mind,# Scredon says.

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